Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and new leader Tsai Ing-wen pledge to work on smooth power transition

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and incoming President Tsai Ing-wen have pledged to set aside their partisan differences to work on a smooth transition of power.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and incoming President Tsai Ing-wen have pledged to set aside their partisan differences to work on a smooth transition of power. PHOTOS: REUTERS, EPA

Taiwan's current President and incoming President pledged on Wednesday (March 30) to set aside their partisan differences to work on a smooth transition of power. 

Mr Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang and Ms Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party met at 10am on Wednesday morning at the Taipei Guest House, a Japanese colonial-era building used for hosting visiting foreign dignitaries.

It was their first meeting since Ms Tsai and her party swept to decisive victory in elections on Jan 16. 

She will be inaugurated on May 20 - a full four months after she was elected. The long transition phase meant that much of Taiwan's major policymaking had been put on hold as various parties jockey for their respective agendas.

This, even as the island grapples with challenges including a stagnant economy. 

Both leaders made brief opening remarks before they sit down for a closed-door meeting that is also expected to cover issues such as uncertain cross-strait relations and Taiwan's looming diplomatic predicament. 

Taiwan's clutch of diplomatic allies have been straining at the leash, looking to establish ties with China instead. 

A smiling Mr Ma greeted Ms Tsai, saying: "Long time no see." She responded wryly: "I see you on television."

"As do I," he quickly replied. 

In his remarks, Mr Ma congratulated Ms Tsai on her election as Taiwan's first woman President and called on the two rival camps to work together.

"Taiwan today meets with many challenges," he said. "The two parties need to cooperate, in order to effect a breakthrough."

He added that in the coming two months as Ms Tsai prepares to take over the reins, he will be happy to extend any help required.

The call for cooperation was echoed by Ms Tsai. 

She said that there are three points of significance to the meeting.

First, it shows that the election - which marks the third transfer of power in democratic Taiwan, had gone through successfully. 
"That we can sit here together indicates how democracy is a cherished value of our society."

Second, she said she hopes the meeting will help institutionise a mechanism that will ensure smooth transitions of power in future, and maintain Taiwan's stability amid the change. "This is our shared responsibility," she said pointedly. 

Third, it is crucial that both sides co-operate.

"During the heat of the hustings, we had our differences and political considerations. But people now expect that we can sit down together and rationally discuss societal issues no matter what happened in the past."